Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Is this sustainable?

My classmates and I had an epic day of NINE hours of lecture.  Can you imagine how much we retained?  Not much which is why we were supposed to study for another three hours after that before next class.  I was so tired that I did what I could and went to bed around 9:00 pm.  Fortunately, I woke up around 5:30 am and had a few hours to decide how to fill my time until class at 8:30.  For the first time in a few months, I went running.  It felt like two miles but could have been more like 2.5.

One of the most influential books I've ever read was called The Power of Full Engagement.  The book was written by a company that helped Olympic-grade athletes prepare for their big events.  When business executives came to them to ask their help training employees and team members, they discovered a void in the market and capitalized.  The athletes were training for the one shot at the Super Bowl, or the one shot at the gold metal, etc, and couldn't be caught off guard for the three or five minutes or three hours of competition. These executives, however, couldn't have a bad minute let alone a bad day without costing the company millions of dollars for choosing the name irectangle  instead of ipad.

Among other things, the book discusses the importance of physical exercise and eating habits especially for foods high in the glycemic index to avoid a 'stone-walled' feeling.  Not surprisingly, the book doesn't add much knowledge to what is already known about staying healthy, but in context it presents the research and case studies in such a way to highlight the consequences both of good and bad health habits.  The result of reading the book on me was to attempt a healthy lifestyle during medical school which is notorious for burnouts and plateaus.  And with that, my alarm calls me to start another day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday, June 27 2011

The first official day of class was not too far removed from an undergraduate first day.  We read about policies and welcomes and expectations, etc for almost three hours.  The second half of the day was spent mostly in powerpoint lecture outlining Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and in the last hour we finally practiced on each other.

OMM is a specific type of diagnosis and therapy.  The idea is that a normal body will exhibit normal attributes that an abnormal body will not.  Certain bodies a higher muscle tone on one side of the back, shoulder, or neck than the other side which will make that person prone to feel pain.  This course is designed to train our hands to differentiate normal to abnormal skin, subcutaneous, muscle, and bone tissue and to eventually use our knowledge of anatomy and physiology to treat those abnormalities.  Specifically, we are taught to look for asymmetry, muscle tone, heat, moisture, and any other tell-tale signs of health or the absence of it.

Today we focused mainly on palpation and sensation for an overall structural exam.  We learned the basic anatomical landmarks to feel for and we have our first test on Friday to see if we can correctly give a structural exam along with a soft tissue and a joint mobility treatment within an allotted time.  I stayed after class with a few classmates to practice.

There are fewer classmates than I expected.  The ones I have talked to are also glad they did not bring their spouses.  The common theme was, "This is an ugly place."

Oh, I also bought a hat today in order to protect my sparsely-haired head from the glaring sun only to find out that it is against campus dress code to wear hats.  Also, it is against dress code to wear sports shorts and T-shirts.  Unfortunately, that is the dress code for the class. Conflicting dress codes hurt my head.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week One

I am counting the first week as the week preceding and leading up to classes.  There was an offer to participate in a summer program that allowed students to take the first year of osteopathic principles and practices.  The catch was it had to be done at the mother campus because the daughter campus is still being built.

This threw a wrench into the logistical plans of anyone who wanted to participate, but feeling that the benefits over the long term might outweigh the short term set-backs, I decided to try it.  I cleaned my last house on Thursday, packed what little I needed for a month out of town, and flew down on Saturday in order to start class on Monday.  Luckily I had a wonderful roommate with a car to go shopping at the nearest WinCo.  Church on Sunday was a little more involved.

I looked at the meetinghouse locator site on and the nearest chapel was 2 miles away: well within walking distance.  Unfortunately, it was a Spanish ward.  The nearest English ward was 4.8 way.  The GPS said it would take 1hr 40 min but I did it in under an hour and fifteen.  Wasn't bad except for my growing forehead.  I was thoroughly reddened upon my arrival at home.  The area reminds me of Ajo, Az commonly referred to as the armpit of the west.  It is said that no one dares use a shovel in Ajo for fear that hell will break loose.  Quite a few of the advertisements are in Spanish and ragazzacci roam in gangs while crazies roam like one man wolfpacks.  I find myself in an old habit watching out for syringes on the walkways, but fortunately did not see any today.

A Fly on the Wall

There have been many moments in my life when I wish I could have captured a thought or an event that I witnessed adequately enough to convey its entirety to the witnesses of my life. Often I find that the retelling is not worth the embarrassment over the fumbling words out of my mouth. So more often than not humorous, entertaining and interesting happenings never leave the inside of my cranium.

I have often wished for the ability to retell stories. My dad can hold an entire room full of people spellbound for twenty minutes by his retelling the last two minutes of a football game and he is the only person I have seen entertain with words only 20 grandkids and their parents by telling fishing stories and other close encounters of his childhood. I discovered along with a young Benjamin Franklin when I was young that almost everyone I entered into a discussion with were more eloquent and sometimes bore me down more through fluency than by the strength of reason. When Ohio Congressman James Ashley disapproved of a story Abraham Lincoln had just told, the President responded: “Ashley, I have great confidence in you and great respect for you, and I know how sincere you are. But if I couldn’t tell these stories, I would die.” It was said of Joseph Smith that “He took heaven, figuratively speaking, and brought it down to earth; and he took the earth, brought it up, and opened up, in plainness and simplicity, the things of God. … Did not Joseph do the same to your understandings? Would he not take the Scriptures and make them so plain and simple that everybody could understand?”

My weakness is my own to overcome and hopefully my readers will not suffer too greatly during the process. I hope to keep a journal of my life during medical school. To do so adequately would require a tale twenty-five years in the making, but I will engage the most relevant and recent points.

During my senior year of high school I auditioned for and was accepted for a full scholarship to study vocal performance with an emphasis on opera. I went on my mission with the intention to study music when I returned but gradually during the two years divorced the idea. In my experience a human mind cannot abide a void well for long and I reviewed my performance in school which was quite naturally flawless but it was the mastery of the more difficult chemistry and physics classes that I marveled most at. Anyone who breathed could have done well in sociology or ethics or communication or philosophy, most could muddle their way through beginning computer and psychology classes, but more than a half of those who started physics and chemistry dropped by the end and of those that stayed, I was among the highest ranked.

I decided to go into engineering and took the entry level course with the expectation of building structures and programming robots. To my dismay we spent our time programming by trial and error in MATLAB. Not fond of making errors this teaching method disgusted me and my short attachment to engineering was over. (Isn't it amazing how insignificant the turning points of our lives are?)

Once again to fill the void I jumped into pharmacy (not that I was attached to pharmacy any more than engineering, but I needed a plan and the prerequisites for pharmacy ensured that any real decision-making was put off for a few years.) Fortunately, during an organic chemistry class I saw an ad for a pharmacy technician course offered during the summer. I decided to try it to make sure I liked pharmacy. By now I was in a university and my flawless record came to a halt. I was a once big fish in an even bigger pond. Not that I did poorly, but even an A- hurt my GPA. In fact I missed graduating with honors by one one-hundredth of a GPA point which isn't bad considering that the thresholds for laude and cum laude and summa cum laude are calculated including the philosophy, English, family science, and music majors.

The pharmacy course required an externship for 180 hours at either a retail or hospital pharmacy. I worked at a retail pharmacy in a grocery store and performed the same functions of a pharmacist (counting pills) but without the liability (miscounting or grabbing the wrong medication). Additionally, we talked regularly to insurance companies who refused to pay out and had to explain to patients why they couldn't receive medications more often that I would have liked. No one ever asked a pharmacist for his advice and I decided that for all the three or four years that they spend learning about drugs, a pharmacist is a very underused resource among health professionals.

Disliking the idea of being underused, I ran headlong into a void again. My neuroscience major qualified me for professional school (pharmacy, medical, veterinary, dental, etc), graduate school (PhD), or a laboratory for research. I had only a little experience with research and not enough connections for graduate school so that left a professional route. By this time I had completed almost all the prerequisites for any professional program and my grades were far enough above the mean entry level for any that I decided on medical school and involved myself more in bench research, shadowing doctors, and community volunteering.

Making an already too long story shorter than it could be, I scored highly on the MCAT to ensure a place somewhere but I applied to and got rejected from any MD program I applied to. That left me with a year to fill until the next application cycle during which I considered a program in Guadalajara, Mexico, a military intelligence occupation with the army, and everything in between. I finally settled on working with my brothers cleaning and maintaining foreclosed houses which I did until I left for medical school.